Opinion: America’s tragedy is that Trump brought out the worst in us

You know the way Shakespeare created a portrait of a family’s hard feelings in King Lear, his tragedy about a raging, storming English king with three daughters? That play, set in Gloucester, speaks to me now of how Congress and the country are falling apart.

It even takes me back to the Civil War.

Shakespeare got it right. Conflicts and conversations within a family may be buried alive but come back to haunt one when stepped upon, like a stone or a land mine. Words fly like, well, slings and arrows. They may never be taken back, forgotten or forgiven.

Congress, which I cover, is a mirror of those emotions writ large. The House of Representatives is so full of anger, cold and hot, that 44 members are quitting in disgust. (That’s about 10% of the 435 Representatives.) Those rushing for the exits include their best and brightest Republicans.

The damage is lasting. “Broken” and “dysfunctional” are the words the leave-takers use most, just like a family.

They just can’t take it anymore. I don’t blame them. The verbal warfare on the floor and in committee work just never seems to stop. There are several pugnacious members, but one takes the cake.

Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, the vocal MAGA destroyer, recently led an impeachment of a Cabinet member, which was dismissed in the Senate.

Now Greene is threatening to force a motion to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). It is a dagger and distraction that House Democrats behold with bemusement, knowing their Republican colleagues are getting sick of her attacks poisoning the well of the House.

Greene’s hard words have reached a breaking point within her own party.

Standing up to her threats, Johnson allowed a bipartisan vote on Ukraine military aid to go forward. This was a major moment of truth for dealing in good faith. As kind of a handshake, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) said his party will vote against a motion to remove Johnson.

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy fell at the hands of a hard-right group of Republicans, the Freedom Caucus — which actually kicked Greene out.

Her latest gambit is to get Johnson to “defund” Special Counsel Jack Smith, who charged four criminal indictments against former President Donald Trump.

Yes, she’s Trump’s right hand in the House, but she’ll never be named as his running mate. A vicious female who brings sound and fury wherever she goes will not be Trump’s pick. He likes to provide all that thunder himself. Look for Sens. Tim Scott or J.D. Vance (possibly).

The country feels somewhat shipwrecked, too, as the 2024 election draws near. Friendships across the divide between Trump and President Joe Biden are fading fast. This election is a matter of life or death for the republic, as envisioned in the Constitution.

Remember, my friends, Trump means every hard word he says. He can’t control boasts and threats about seeking “retribution” and being a dictator on “day one.”

His aides are drawing up plans on how to maximize the power of the presidency and weaken government agencies such as the departments of Justice and Environmental Protection.

Trump has sown seeds of anger wherever he’s trod. The tragedy is that he changed the American public’s character by, like the raving mad King Lear, bringing out the worst in us.

We shall never forget the Jan. 6 mob descending on the Capitol, Trump’s final stand and gift to the nation.

That was the best day of his life, which is why he enjoyed the scene for three hours.

As an amateur historian, lately I’ve been thinking about the Civil War and all the hard feelings it caused. How the Confederate spirit lived on and on — and on — in Ku Klux Klan violence, Jim Crow segregation, United Daughters of the Confederacy statues and monuments.

Yes, even in William Faulkner’s literature: He wrote a sentimental line about the doomed Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Most thought the Civil War ended in 1865, so they went about their lives and business.

Little did the Union know the “Lost Cause” would be burned into generations as something noble — causing hard feelings that never did die.

— Jamie Stiehm is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.


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